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Le Havre [DVD]
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In this warmhearted portrait of the French harbor city that gives the film its name, fate throws young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (André Wilms), a well-spoken bohemian who works as a shoeshiner. With innate optimism and the unwavering support of his community, Marcel stands up to officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic cinema of Jean-Pierre Melville and Marcel Carné, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight.
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One day a runaway illegal immigrant or `irregular' as we now say comes to his attention. Whilst the media portray this boy, Idrissa, as a possible terrorist, Marcel sees a frightened lonely child who needs help. Despite being chased by the police, Marcel takes all the risks he can to help him. The boy's mother is in London and that is where he wants to get, but with no money and no clue of how to do so.
What happens next is both life affirming and heart warming, some may say too much so. However I was swept along by this beautifully paced and told story. The acting is all spot on, and I particularly like the lack of pretty actors, this is a proper slice of life and has a very cosmopolitan attitude to modern day France and its attitude to immigration. We even get a sort of charity gig at one point which is where `Little Bob' comes in and he makes `the Stones' look a bit spritely - God bless him.
Directed and written by Aki Kaurismaki this is one of those films that will leave you with a nice war feeling inside and a desire to see more of his films, which are not prolific enough. So if a bit of Gallic spirit and humour all wrapped up in a feel good factor is your thing then you really can not go wrong with this brilliant piece of cinema.
This is a somewhat gentler work than some of Kaurismaki`s other films, though it has the same mixture of a kind of bleak compassion and mordantly dispassionate observation of working-class people in all their flawed, random multifariousness - `Lord, what fools these mortals be`, indeed.
The plot is minimal, but the rewards to be had from this film of modest marvels are many, not least the central performances by the imposing Andre Wilms as Marcel, and Blondin Miguel as the boy. In fact, Wilms is both subtle and unselfishly restrained as the rather reluctant father figure. The ways in which his neighbours aid and abet his efforts are unsentimentally heartening, and often humorous.
It`s a lovely film to look at too. It lingers in the memory more like a play might, with its backstreet setting - as well as forays to the harbour - and scenes in various bars and shops, as Marcel tries to keep the authorities from discovering the boy.
If you like - or love as I do - this director`s films, you`ll fall for this return to form. If only more directors had the uncluttered honesty, unforced humour, and lack of self-importance of Kaurismaki.
Oh, and there`s a brief scene involving an investigator and a pineapple that made me laugh out loud.
Welcome back, Aki!
Without giving too much away, it follows a young boy who arrives in Le Havre from Africa in search of a better life in Europe. He comes across an elderly couple there and the film documents the struggle to escape from the police that the child and the couple endure.
Kaurismaki's script is restrained, witty and moving and the performances humane and believable. An excellent film and Kaurismaki's best to date.
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